Column: Sperrazza steps into starting role with flash

Column: Sperrazza steps into starting role with flash

Forgive those who were around Parsons Field Saturday afternoon if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was a Northeastern football game, the first home match of the season after five consecutive away games. But that wasn’t the only sight for the sore eyes of Northeastern gridiron fans.

Our Huskies were winning.

The Northeastern football team made a huge statement in the Atlantic-10, and all of 1-AA, with a 27-24 last-second win over No. 18 Delaware.

The hockey season will have to be put on hold; there’s still football to be played.

The season appeared to be going downhill, another mediocre year for the boys of Kent Street. They began their Atlantic-10 schedule with a blowout loss to James Madison, and a mistake-ridden loss to Richmond a week later. To make matters worse, the team hadn’t played a game at Parsons Field, and was in danger of its fan base losing interest before even seeing a game.

But fortunately for the team, and for the students, there is hope for this season – which makes it worth a ride on the D-line every Saturday afternoon.

The victory is the biggest win since we beat, ironically, Delaware in the 2003 season. The Blue Hens went on to win the 1-AA National Championship that year, were Atlantic-10 Co-Champions in 2004, and had a winning record in 2005 at 6-5. The Delaware program is, from top to bottom, one of the best in the conference. They were able to hang with No. 1 New Hampshire a week ago, losing narrowly, 52-49.

So what was the difference here?

Surely being in front of the home crowd was a huge factor, but the biggest surprise (and the most pleasing) was the face under center for the Huskies – sophomore quarterback John Sperrazza.

The signal caller was 17 of 32 for 272 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Blue Hens, by no measure perfect, but he got the win. The Mansfield, Mass. native has been plagued by injury this season: first a bout with lyme disease, and most recently a jammed finger. An ankle injury to fellow sophomore quarterback Anthony Orio moved Sperrazza up to A-squad against Delaware, and one hopes he’ll be there for good.

It isn’t that Orio can’t play good football; he led the Huskies to a win earlier in the season against Holy Cross. It’s just that Sperrazza’s gun-slinging style of play is really fun, a type off football far different from Orio’s game management skills.

In other words, I’d rather watch Sperrazza throw one pass and connect for 75 yards than see Orio have an efficient 7-10 day passing.

The ”game-manager” theory of quarterback play is misguided. The man under center can undoubtedly turn the game with a single play. Therefore, it’s fun to see him air it out – throw deep and often, leading late in the game, remaining cool and collected under pressure.

And Sperrazza did that, going 4-5 on the last drive of the game to set up freshman Mat Johnson’s game winning 35-yard field goal as time expired.

In a Northeastern athletic landscape in need of the next big star, there is no better candidate than the quarterback. It’s an old school, classic component of college athletics: the big man on campus is the one under center. If Sperrazza isn’t up to snuff, just look at who is behind him in the Northeastern backfield as the possible stud player.

Junior tailback Maurice ”Mo” Murray is back from tendonitis in his knee – and in a big way.

Mo’s playing time was cut short since he left mid-game Sept. 16 against North Dakota, a week after he exploded for 170 yards on 24 carries against Holy Cross. He looks to be back to his old ways, as demonstrated by his performance against Delaware, with 24 rushes for 170 yards.

He did this while splitting time with sophomore Alex Broomfield, who had 13 rushes for 65 yards.

With Murray picking up the big gains, and Sperrazza hopefully providing a little drama, fans should be giving these Huskies another look.

– Matt Foster may be reached for comment at [email protected]

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